A community education and condom promotion intervention addressed at men who have sex with men in Escuintla, Guatemala

Published: August 1, 2008

A community education and condom promotion intervention addressed at men who have sex with men in Escuintla, Guatemala

Issues: Primary prevention is one of the main interventions which could reduce the incidence and prevalence of STIs/HIV. We describe the community educational component of the UALE project, an STI/HIV prevention and control programme targeting vulnerable groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM). It was implemented in 3 municipalities of the province of Escuintla, Guatemala, in March 2005.

Description: In Escuintla, the social stigmatizing attitudes towards MSM might prevent them to seek medical attention. Therefore, the majority of the educational opportunities take place outside the health centre. After mapping exercises, the education and condom promotion intervention was set up. Weekly, health educators conducted group sessions at MSM meeting venues. Usually their goal was to change sexual risk behaviour through education, and communication skills training. Another major point was to encourage prompt health seeking behaviour. Condoms were distributed free of charge and condom use skills were taught. In order to increase MSM participation, in June 2006 a health educator dedicated specifically to MSM was hired and an outreach programme using a mobile van was implemented.

Lessons learned:
1) The participation of MSM in the outreach programme was low which suggest that they are a hard-to-reach population.
2) Sociocultural environments which promote homophobia might prevent access of this vulnerable population to appropriate sexual health services.
3) Stigma is still a main barrier to be taken into account when working with MSM.

Next steps: To implement an approach that involve peer-based community education, reinforced by media and institutional interventions, since its especially effective in changing attitudes and social norms and in teaching new behaviours and since it avoids stigmatization.

-Abstract available at link below-

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